Srinagar: The army has lost 26 soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir in the first two months of 2017, while the security forces have stepped up the heat against militants and killed 22 extremists in 50 days — the highest since 2010.
While 20 armymen, including an officer, lost their lives in avalanches in the Valley, six soldiers were killed during counter-insurgency operations across the state that led to the killing of 22 militants as well, security officials said in Srinagar.
Among the armymen killed was a Major who died while battling militants in Handwara area of Kupwara district on February 14.
Three militants were killed in the operation, the officials said.
Earlier that day, three soldiers were killed in a gunbattle with militants in Hajin area of Bandipora district and a militant was also killed, they said.
Two days before on February 12, four militants were gunned down in an encounter in Kulgam district of Kashmir, that claimed the lives of two soldiers .
One civilian was killed in the exchange of firing between the militants and security forces while another civilian died in security forces’ firing on protesters who were pelting stones after the operation ended.
Intelligence reports say that many youths — approximately 100 — have joined militancy after the killing of Hibzul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani last year, prompting security forces to launch proactive operations in recent times.
Out of the nearly 50 operations conducted in Kashmir since January 1 this year, 16 operations have resulted in either killing (22) or arrest (three) of militants, the officials said.
The security forces have also been able to bust the module of overground workers of militants, especially in north Kashmir.
More than 40 overground workers (OGWs) have been arrested since the start of this year, they said.
“These OGWs do the ground running for militants, acting as their eyes and ears — identifying soft targets, carrying out recce before striking and organising logistics like food and hideouts.”
“These workers might not be high on the priority list of security agencies but their arrest means crippling of the militants, particularly the foreigners,” a senior police official from north Kashmir said.